Former Grizzlies' forward Chris Johnson proved that one doesn't necessarily need to emerge as an NBADL All-Star to earn an NBA Call-Up. What may prove to be key, however, is how one steps up when it matters most.
With a bevy of NBA executives taking in the D-League Showcase last month, Johnson stole the show with an ever efficient 29 point performance to begin the Showcase. His efforts were enough to catch the eye of John Hollinger, who was in Reno looking to find a gem for the Grizzlies. Memphis brass took a closer look at Johnson following the performance, and signed him nearly two weeks later.
All it really takes for a player to get noticed in the D-League is a strong stretch of a few solid games. With that in mind, Armor big man Willie Reed is hoping to follow in a guy like Johnson's footsteps.
Though Reed has been playing well this whole season after spending training camp with the Kings, his team struggled before acquiring Kris Joseph. NBA teams are looking for winners, but luckily for Reed, he seems to understand that. He's put on quite a show following the All-Star break.
Reed has led the Armor to a 4-0 record since the All-Star break, and his own efforts have been highlighted by a couple of 20 plus point performances, two double-doubles, and a sky high field-goal percentage. He's been the catalyst, because in the end, Reed knows that standing out has to do with not only dominating the game on your own, but helping them win ball games.
"I think it's a combination of both," the big man told RidiculousUpside.com. "You can dominate the game, but you have to be a team player too. It's all about doing your job and doing what you can to help your team win. Sometimes that requires you to dominate. If you're doing what you're supposed to do, though, everyone can dominate together as a team."
Reed's strategy has seemed to benefit himself and the Armor all month long, as the big man is able to flip a switch, get hot offensively, and lead the charge if necessary. He's an efficient scorer and can fill it up if that's what his team needs, but Reed still believes it'll be his defensive effort that allows him to ultimately contribute something meaningful to an NBA squad.
"I'm the type of guy who will bring energy off the bench." Reed added. "Teams need someone who is going to come in and give effort by playing tough defensive and grabbing all of those loose balls. It's about helping your team get those stops."
Though Reed believes it'll be his defensive prowess that helps him break into the NBA, he still has his sights set on continuing to develop and emerge as a steady overall player. His recent efforts only further prove that. The big man said, "I actually try and model my game after a young Amar'e Stoudemire or LaMarcus Aldridge. I'm trying to turn myself into a player that has ridiculous upside. Look at Serge Ibaka. He came up as a strong defensive rebounder and high energy guy, but as he continued working with his team, he became more of an offensive threat. That's all I want. I want to go in and be a piece to a team, and then they can develop me."
Taking development into consideration, there's no doubt Reed values his time with the Armor highly. The Nets (Springfield's NBA parent squad) have been watching his progress closely, and as recent trends may suggest, there's certainly a benefit to working a player up in your own system, only to call him up to contribute later on. Such a transition is often a seamless one.
"It's definitely a blessing to have a team that's interested in you," Reed added. "For them to invest so much time in me, and to make sure I'm in the gym working on my game, that I get the coach's input and watch a lot of film, all of those things are great. To have a single NBA organization that's affiliated with Springfield, it's easy to work on their defensive schemes. They want me to get better for them, and as I do that, I'm getting better for other NBA teams as well."
It's often difficult to remember that the life of a D-League player is not always the most glamourous or luxurious one. As difficult as it is to get noticed by NBA executives, it's just as difficult to build up somewhat of a fan base too. Nevertheless, due to his strong stretch this month, Reed (who averages 14.3 points on 53% from the field, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per contest) has been receiving quite a lot of encouragement from an ever-growing fan base through social media.
"I try and interact with everyone on Twitter, because I don't want them to think I'm getting too big. I'm just a regular guy," the 22 year old insisted. "I'm just someone who likes to play the game that I love so much. Whenever someone reaches out to me on social media, I try and respond. I can't always get to everything, But I like to try and make sure I stay in touch with the fan base."
As he emerges as a leader and key cog in Springfield's engine for success, there's no denying that Reed has been becoming a more prevalent player both in NBA executives and fans' minds. He seems to have a good idea of what it'll take to eventually make the ultimate jump, so there's no doubt the big man is someone to keep an eye on as the season progresses.